New FATBack is up. If the only thing you want to hear is a completely unprovoked and unfair attack on Steven Goff and Ives Galarcep's commenters, go ahead and skip to the end. You can also subscribe on iTunes, even though we're not in fact particularly tuneful.
This week, the Steven Cohen affair hit the mainstream, in Scott Wolf's really, really silly article. Sure, I'll be snippeting from it, but go and have yourself a good wallow. It's hilarious.
Less hilarious is this awful, awful job from Jack Bell, who I was under the impression knew better.
If for some reason you're unaware of the story so far - you know what, ignorance is bliss. This weekend I'll talk about, I don't know, soccer or something. Maybe throw in a few jokes. It'll be fun.
But if you're aware of the story and nonetheless want a recap, Bill and Ollie have been killing it on this site.
Full disclosure - Steven Cohen fired me about, ooh - six years ago now? It was in the original configuration of BigSoccer Radio. Llew Llewellyn and I did our show in their studio, and didn't bring in enough listeners, sponsors, or money. And apparently we were being charged rent all the while. The last time Steven Cohen spoke to me, he said Llew and I owed him $12,000. I said I'd throw in a pony as well.
What Cohen says in his defense is just adorable. Let's laugh at that first before we get serious.
Wow, how do you even start unpacking this?
Yeah, that's what ticks us off about Mullah Muhammad Omar. The e-mail he sends to soccer shows. You can either call your critics terrorists, OR you can say they're protesting too much. Doing both? Not so smooth. Doing so in the same sentence? Well, Billy Dee Williams would not approve.
Anyhow. Wolf's article ends up as a World Soccer Daily infomercial, which I guess is the Daily News' business, but this can not stand:
Then we'll suffer.
Look, if American soccer is such a fragile flower that it cannot survive the loss of one radio show, then we're just playing thumb wars in Butt Town anyway. The alleged indispensability of "World Soccer Daily" is a lousy reason to defend Cohen, even by the standards of lousiness set by other reasons to defend Steven Cohen.
Bell's article is just godawful - perhaps even Cohen's co-host, Nick Gerber, would agree.
You've found the culprit - soccer itself. Great work, Clouseau. Maybe next you can take on the other demon threatening our nation's youth, rock music.
At least Bell linked to what Cohen actually said in the first place. It slipped Wolf's mind completely.
And the follow-up:
Bolded for emphasis.
Well, he was wrong on the number, he hasn't retracted, he hasn't apologized.
Of course, now they're not facts anymore.
Hm, some assertions of fact there. Apparently saying "In my opinion" acts as a force field not just against criticism, but correction.
And Bell bought into it hook, line and sinker:
Oh, right. Yes, the hooliganism that is now infecting American soccer because Steven Cohen has an opinion.
You know what? How about I show you all how real offensiveness works. Real assertions of fact that, if proven wrong, would demand apology or removal.
Hundreds of death threats, huh? Kidnapping threats? I don't think those threats are serious, and I don't think Cohen takes them seriously.
Ollie already called him out for this, when he blamed EPL Talk's Gaffer:
But he's still waving the not-yet-bloody shirt to people like Wolf and Bell, whose journalistic reactions for some reason fell short of asking "Really?"
Hey, you know the first thing I wouldn't do if I thought someone was responsible for getting my family threatened? Give them a nationwide platform to expand on their thoughts.
I'm going to come right out and say it - I'm sure he received some angry e-mails threatening violence. And I'm just as sure he's using those e-mails as retroactive justification. Someone is out there threatening to kidnap children over soccer opinions? How about calling a god-damned cop? If not for your sake, then for mine, at least.
It's a rhetorical trick. It's meant to conflate kidnapping and murder with a freaking consumer boycott. It's meant to stifle discussion. And I don't buy it.
I am not Cohen, so my reactions are not his. But if I ever had a threat like that? You'd never read about it. I'd send it straight to the FBI. Because the last thing I'd want to do is encourage others, muddy the waters with publicity, and so forth. Cohen's reaction to those threats are so cavalier, muddled, and self-promoting that I tend to doubt that a single cop has been called.
...wow! Now THAT's offensive! AND dangerous! If Cohen's house is torched tomorrow, I'm in a WORLD of Shi'ite! Whatever will I do then?
Apologize. Accept the facts. And try to rebuild my reputation.
Or, I could say, even after someone showed me hundreds of police reports, "I'm just expressing my opinion."
Problem is, I expressed that opinion - that sacred, holy opinion granted by God and the Constitution which I demand everyone fight to the death to defend my right to have, that opinion - based on false information. Once I know that opinion is false, it stops being an opinion. It becomes a lie.
Cohen knew going in that his "opinions" on Hillsborough were based on 100% pure creamery wrong. He's been told what the Taylor Report says. He doesn't care. He went in anyway, because he wanted cheap controversy and cheap attention. He got away with it before, and figured he would again. Turns out he got more attention than he can handle, and he's been scrambling ever since.
And it looks like the scrambling has worked. Major soccer news outlets on both sides of the country reporting said threats as fact, and blaming American soccer fans for opposing the Bill of Rights.
(As if there's anything in the Federalist Papers about Fado's Irish Pubs being obliged to sponsor a radio show.)
If Bell and Wolf and whoever else want to join Cohen, they are welcome to. Me, I'm putting on a dress and finding a lifeboat.